Fresh off a big home win over Oklahoma last weekend, the 25th-ranked Utah Valley University wrestling team hits the road this week for a pair of Big 12 Conference duals at No. 17 Wyoming and Air Force.
The Wolverines, who entered the USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll for the first time in program history earlier this week, first face the 17th-ranked Cowboys in Laramie on Friday, before capping the trip at the Academy in Colorado Springs on Saturday. Each contest begins at 7 p.m. MT, and will be streamed live on FloWrestling (subscription required).
UVU enters the weekend with an 8-3 overall record and currently in third place in the Big 12 standings with a 4-1 conference clip. The Wolverines hold conference wins over OU, West Virginia, North Dakota State and Fresno State, as well as non-conference victories over CSU Bakersfield, Clarion, Reinhardt and UNC Pembroke en route to earning the program's inaugural top-25 ranking in school history. UVU's only losses have come to No. 6 NC State, No. 12 South Dakota State and Kent State.
In its last match against OU, the Wolverines won six of the 10 bouts to defeat Big 12 power Oklahoma, 19-18, by criteria. After falling behind 9-0, Utah Valley reeled off five-straight wins to take a 15-9 lead. After back-to-back wins gave the Sooners an 18-15 advantage, UVU 141-pound redshirt freshman Matt Findlay knocked off 26th-ranked and three-time NCAA qualifier Mike Longo, 12-10, in overtime to tie the contest at 18-18. The Wolverines were then determined victorious after holding the tiebreaker by winning six matches to OU's four.
Sophomore 174-pounder Kimball Bastian also had a huge win in the contest for the Wolverines by holding on late to upset No. 10 Yoanse Mejias by a score of 2-1 en route to earning Big 12 Conference Co-Wrestler of the Week honors. After being granted a penalty point in the first and an escape in the second, Bastian held a 2-1 lead over Mejias with time winding down in the final period. Mejias then looked to have scored the go-ahead takedown with mere seconds remaining, but after review, the official erased the takedown off the board and Bastian held on for the big upset.
The Wolverines won four matches in the contest against ranked foes, as 16th-ranked 165-pounder Demetrius Romero defeated No. 24 Dewaylon Barnes (3-2) and sophomore 197-pounder Tanner Orndorff beat No. 32 Andrew Dixon, 6-2. Senior heavyweight Dustin Dennison and 184-pound redshirt freshman Gary Jantzer too recorded wins for the Wolverines against the Sooners.
Four UVU grapplers enter the weekend nationally ranked, as 125-pound redshirt freshman Taylor LaMont (22-2) leads the way by finding himself ranked as high as No. 6 by TrackWrestling. Romero (23-4) is next as he's ranked 16th, while Bastian re-enters the InterMat poll at 17th after knocking off Mejias and Dennison rounds out the group by being ranked 26th in the latest NCAA Coaches' Panel Ranking.
Friday's dual will mark a battle of two top-25 teams, as No. 25 UVU goes head-to-head with No. 17 Wyoming. The Cowboys enter the contest with 10-3 overall record and in fourth place in the Big 12 with a 4-2 conference clip. The Pokes moved up five spots in the rankings this week after defeating Oklahoma convincingly last week, 26-9. All three of Wyoming's losses on the year have come to ranked foes (No. 5 Oklahoma State, No. 12 SDSU and No. 15 Nebraska).
The Pokes enter Friday's dual with six wrestlers currently individually ranked, led by No. 1 Bryce Meredith at 141 pounds. Meredith is a two-time All-American that finished second in the nation in 2016. Montorie Bridges is next for the Cowboys as he is currently ranked fifth at 133, while Archie Colgan is 10th at 157, Branson Ashworth is 13th at 165, Sam Turner is 24th at 149 and Kyle Pope is 32nd at 174.
Friday's match will mark 14th all-time meeting between UVU and Wyoming. The Cowboys enter the match with a 12-1 series lead after edging Utah Valley by criteria a season ago (17-16). Utah Valley's lone win against the Pokes was a 26-19 victory at the Cowboy Duals in Laramie in 2006.
About Air Force
AFA enters the weekend with a 6-4 overall record and currently in ninth place in the Big 12 standings with a 1-3 conference mark. The Falcons have dropped three-straight duals after falling to No. 12 South Dakota State (32-6), West Virginia by criteria (19-18) and North Dakota State (33-7). Air Force holds its six wins on the year over Fresno State, Hofstra, Long Island-Post, Colorado Mesa, New Mexico Highlands and Western State Colorado.
Three Falcons enter Saturday's contest ranked in the latest NCAA Coaches' Panel Ranking, as Alex Mossing comes in at 31st at 157, Tony DeCesare is 32nd at 125 and Anthony McLaughlin is 32nd at 197.
Saturday's matchup will mark the 15th all-time meeting between the Wolverines and Falcons. UVU enters the match holding an 8-6 lead after pulling out an 18-15 win over Air Force in Orem a season ago.
Up next for UVU
Following the weekend trip, the Wolverines will return home for their regular season finale against Northern Colorado on Friday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. The contest will mark Senior Night for Utah Valley.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.